LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Orioles amateur scouting director Gary Rajsich is with the front office contingent at the Winter Meetings. He is looking to fill a few positions on his scouting staff.
Chris Gale, the Orioles’ area scout in the Carolinas and southern Virginia, left the organization recently to take a pro scouting position with Cleveland. Bob Szymkowski, the club’s area scout covering Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota, did not have his contract renewed. James Keller, the O’s national pitching cross-checker, has left to take a position with the Texas Rangers.
“I’ve got a couple of area scout positions that are open and we’re interviewing candidates for that while we’re here,” Rajsich said during a video interview. “Hopefully within a week or so we’ll fill those spots and move on to next year’s draft.”
When he looks back on his 2013 draft, Rajsich sees several things he’s excited about. His first-round pick, right-hander Hunter Harvey, who turns 19 today is tops among them. He went 0-1 with a 1.78 ERA in 25 1/3 innings after the draft.
“We like his arsenal, the way he throws and we like his arm,” Rajsich said. “It is just a matter of developing the changeup a little more, developing a little more confidence in it.
“He’s got ice water in his veins. When he went up to pitch in that playoff game in Aberdeen last year, he was confident he would do well. For a young pitcher with that kind of confidence and moxie, I mean, he could really move fast next year I believe.”
One player the O’s selected down in the draft that looks like a very solid pick is right-hander Jon Keller. He was drafted in the 22nd round out of the University of Tampa after he pitched two seasons in the rotation at the University of Nebraska.
Keller pitched at 92-93 mph this season with a fastball that touched 97 late in the year at short-season Single-A Aberdeen. His slider has a chance to be a plus pitch. He had elbow issues in the past, but was healthy during the 2013 season and also pitched at the O’s instructional league in the fall.
“Well, he was one of the better arms out of Florida last year, but his signability knocked him down a little bit and his medical record knocked him down a little bit,” Rajsich said.
“Our area scout (Jim Thrift) did a fantastic job on his signability that we could draft him that low and still sign him. (Director of pitching development) Rick Peterson did a great job with tweaking his mechanics. He throws very easy and he’s an impressive young pitcher and he’s big.”
Rajsich also talked briefly about the 2014 draft, which he said looks to be deeper than the the last two drafts, his first two as O’s director of amateur scouting.
Video to follow.